Friday, December 17, 2010

The McNabb Era is Over, enter Rex Grossman

Well, it's been real, it's been fun... but it hasn't been real fun. Today it's become apparent that the Redskins are starting "Sexy" Rexy Grossman on Sunday. The hell with it, he couldn't be worse than McNabb this season. McNabb has struggled, but the Redskins gave up two draft picks for him and I always liked him as a player. I hoped he'd rebound and the coaches would see something in him and he'd be our leader for the forseeable future, but there's just no conceivable way he'll be back next season. Benching him completely ends our relationship with him, good thing that contract extension makes him tradeable.

Fact of the matter is, I like McNabb, but if Shanahan doesn't see a long term match here it's better to cut ties too soon than too late. I was hoping that the Redskins would trade down in this draft, pick up more selections and rebuild the weaknesses on the team. The free agent market is especially weak for signal callers so now it seems they will probably use a first round pick on a QB for the 3rd time in 9 years. (Ramsey 2002, Campbell 2005)

Stanford Cardinal QB Andrew Luck will almost certainly be taken #1 overall unless he has an especially bad bowl game and workout. That leaves us with Ryan Mallet, Jake Locker and Cam Newton as possible options. It's too early to really speculate on which of these might fascinate coach Shanahan. The Skins might also be looking for a reclamation project like Carson Palmer (though Seattle seems like a more likely destination), Vince Young, Matt Lienart, Brady Quinn, or Chad Henne. Maybe they'll try to pluck a young backup off another team who they could mold like Josh Johnson from Tampa Bay, Kevin Kolb from Philly or Stephen McGee from Dallas.

Either way, Coach Shanahan needs to get a QB soon, I don't think Sexy Rexy is gonna cut it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Shanaplan!

The players still believe in Mike Shanahan, even Hunter Smith who was recently cut. They believe that Shanahan and Allen will eventually rebuild this team into a winner. Let's look at what they've done so far:

This off season season the Redskins lost:

QB Jason Campbell- Traded for a 4th round pick in 2012.
RB Ladell Betts- Signed with New Orleans, hasn't played a big role for them.
OT Chris Samuels- Retired due to injuries.
OG Randy Thomas- Also retired due to injuries.
RB Rock Cartwright- Hanging on with Oakland, not a huge role there.
DT Cornelius Griffin- Retired from football. Bought into an insurance company.
CB Fred Smoot- Still looking for an NFL job. Might open some franchise waffle houses in the DC area.
DE Renaldo Wynn- Playing in the UFL

There's not a lot of quality there that we lost. He got rid of some older guys who didn't fit the system. FWIW he also cut Devin Thomas who is young, but was a distraction and wasn't getting it done. Haynesworth of course is on suspension though Adam Shefter of ESPN seems to think the Redskins can get a 3rd rounder for him next offseason. (One can only hope!)

What did the Redskins get?

QB Donovan McNabb- Quality starter. Not an elite QB but someone who will gain more familiarity with the system and hopefully get better as more talent is added.
OT Jammal Brown- 2 time Pro Bowl left tackle. He's been injured this season but he rightfully deserves a spot on the team next year.
RB Ryan Torain- Not especially fast, but someone who is getting it done behind a shoddy offensive line. Shanny thinks he's got elite back potential.
DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu- Strong nose tackle. Hopefully he's not pressed into starting action too often but he's great at occupying blockers and is incredibly strong.
CB Phillip Buchanon- He never lived up to his limitless potential, but he's been very good in Washington.
DE Adam Carriker- Very strong defensive end. Never panned out as a defensive tackle but as a 3-4 end he may become great.
DE Vonnie Holliday- Revered veteran, knows the 3-4. Brought in for veteran leadership.

No question that they lost some very good players to injuries and retirement last year. But they brought in more than they shipped out. It's hard to argue that the new additions are the reason for our present predicament. Rebuilding a franchise is damned hard work, and it takes patience. Remember that Shanahan has done this before.


In 1994 the Broncos finished 7-9. They'd gone to the playoffs in '93, but backed in as a 9-7 team. They'd been 24-24 in the three years under Wade Phillips. Something had to happen, and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen hired Mike Shanahan away from the San Fransisco 49ers where he served as offensive coordinator and won that year's Super Bowl.

The 1994 Denver Broncos had some pieces of a winner. They featured QB John Elway, LT Gary Zimmerman, TE Shannon Sharpe and FS Steve Atwater. Two hall of famers (Elway and Zimmerman) and two possible hall of famers to be. But they were desperately thin. They had no depth, no weapons on offense. The 25th ranked defense in the league. They had some star power, but it was going to be a lot of work to make them into champions. Shanahan got right to work.

Shanahan didn't have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round pick but he managed to draft the franchise's career rushing leader in the 6th round. RB Terrell Davis from Georgia. He also nabbed TE Byron Chamberlain who eventually made the pro bowl.

Shanahan also brought in the franchise's all time receiving leader an undrafted WR named Rod Smith a 25 year old from Missouri Southern. Shanahan also brought in WR Eddie McCaffrey, G Mark Schlereth, DT Michael Dean Perry, SS Tyrone Braxton, DL Mike Lodish, and DB Lionel Washington. He also started backup C Tom Nalen.

The 1995 Broncos went 8-8 but there was still work to be done.

Shanahan drafted LB John Mobley and FB Detron Smith. He made a huge addition in LB Bill Romanowski, quite possibly the meanest SOB in the history of mean SOB's.

That year the Broncos went 13-3 and lost by a field goal to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoffs.

The rest is history. With an intelligent team building approach the Broncos continued to add talent and depth. In 1997 they added OT Tony Jones and drafted long time Broncos G Dan Niel and DL Trevor Price. They went 12-4 and won the Superbowl.

Same story in 1998. They had a decent draft, added some role players and with basically the same team and depth up and down the roster they went 14-2 and won a second consecutive world title.

Losing Elway was tough for the Franchise and they had some growing pains trying to find another quarterback, but the Broncos went 91-69 from 2000-2008. In that span, they went to the playoffs 4 times including 3 consecutive trips from 2003-2005.

Shanahan knows a thing or two about team building, he's got a General Manager in Bruce Allen who's had some success as well and excels at contract negotiation. This plan should work, but it will take time. When Shanahan took over the Redskins they were an absolute mess. 4-12 with no depth on the team and a lack of direction. The franchise had been crippled by 18 years of front office incompetence.

We just have to have faith he's the right man to rebuild our once proud franchise. He's certainly got the background.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why use the 3-4?

I am still puzzled by the change to the 3-4. Aside from Orakpo we had no personnel capable of making the change and contributing to its success. Even then, Orakpo is a natural down lineman who stared with his hand on the ground at Texas. My dream was for the new HC to come in and put Orakpo opposite Andre Carter on the ends, use Haynesworth as a dominating pass rusher and use the other DT spot to occupy blockers. I also expected a free agent splash at the linebacker spot vacated by Orakpo.

Instead we were in for a messy transition to the 3-4 defense. Not only is it messy, but it's ill advised. Know what?


In the 3-4 defense you need:

Big, strong and heavy defensive ends who are athletic enough to pass rush but tough enough to occupy blocks and open lanes to the ball carrier.

A dominating nose tackle who can control the line of scrimmage.

260+ linebackers who are elite at pressuring the quarterback and can cover tight ends and receivers out of the backfield.

Those kinds of players are rare! You don't see a lot of decent 300+ pound ends, or 350+ pound nose tackles, or huge linebackers who can cover and rush. To top it all off, the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and your Washington Redskins are looking for that very small quantity of players. That's 15 teams, almost half the league!

Team building in sports is about looking at the big picture, it's about looking for what's undervalued and taking advantage of the market. Baseball is light years ahead of football in this area, and the fact that every single NFL team doesn't have a strong GM is kind of ridiculous. (In fact, there should always be a #1 football person on the team as a general manager who is the coach's boss... not the other way around.) To get back on track, when the Steelers did the 3-4, they were trend setters. They found tweener prospects who could play standing up, they saw value in players other teams wrote off. Same for the Patriots, few teams were running a 3-4 when they started winning Super Bowls. They saw what was undervalued on the market and capitalized on it! The Skins should be looking at the pro football landscape and thinking "Look at all those 3-4 defenses stocking up on big guys while the Robert Mathis', John Abraham's and Jason Babin's go completely under valued. We should be capitalizing on this. After all we've had one of the better 4-3 defenses in the league for years!"

But no.

They jumped on the 3-4 bandwagon and will most likely continue to wallow in defensive mediocrity until a smarter team breaks the trend and goes back to a dominating 4-3 that paves the way to the Super Bowl.

Then they'll jump ship again. The cycle continues.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rebuilding Project

It was recently suggested to me that the Redskins might be in for a lengthy rebuilding project. I won't disagree but this person said it could be 6-10 years. That's ridiculous. 

This isn't the MLB, we don't need to wait 3-4 years for rookies to work their way through the minors. In the NFL even the worst team in the league could become a contender in 3 seasons with competent management.

Every season you're going to get 7 draft picks and a chance to sign free agents in addition to the top talent on even the worst rosters. I firmly believe that with a consistent approach to team building you can turn a moribund franchise into a division winner in just a few years.

The reason teams wallow in mediocrity is because of poor management. There are a lot of teams without a strong personnel figure. It's usually an over matched coach trying to make roster decisions on top of his coaching duties or a committee of people with no central figure. Not having a strong GM would be laughable in any other sport, yet in football, it's commonplace.

Other reasons are lack of patience. The NFL truly does stand for "Not For Long." You go through the trouble of hiring a coach or a GM. There's a lengthy selection process, you hold a press conference... then you usually give him 1-2 seasons and if you're not 100% satisfied. They're gone. Look at the Redskins last few coaches:

2001 Marty Schottenheimer Coach Marty had a plan in place, get rid of the high priced veterans who weren't contributing to his system and start building a team of players who fit his style of play. In many ways he may have had the most vision of any coach we've had in the Snyder era. He was fired after the season because Dan Snyder is a brat who grew impatient and didn't like the way Marty was handling his new toy.

2002-2003 Steve Spurrier This was a case of bad management. Spurrier had a history of churning out sub average professionals at Florida so whatever convinced Snyder he was a NFL coach is beyond me. It failed spectacularly. Spurrier's draft picks were busts, he brought in Florida re-treads and generally had no idea of how to build a professional team.

2004-2007 Joe Gibbs Gibbs did help bring some credibility back to the team in his second term... but mostly because he couldn't have done any worse than Spurrier. He made several questionable moves in the personnel department, including his first act as head coach. Shipping a 3rd rounder for the soon to be released Mark Brunell. Gibbs/Cerrato and others in the front office were unable to build a deep team that was capable of consistent success in the NFL and their pick of Jason Campbell (second 1st round QB selected by the Skins in 3 years)  was a flop... either because of lack of talent around him or his just being terrible. Depends on who you ask. Ultimately Gibbs II was a failure and he failed to have a consistent approach to building a winner.

2008-2009 Jim Zorn The story is that Zorn was going to be hired on as Jim Fassel's offensive coordinator but that Snyder bowed to fan pressure and passed on Fassel. If that was truly the case... and I believe it is, then that's just another example of horrible management. Fassel seemed to be a great candidate to me, but instead we thrust a weak QB coach in there who had never ran an NFL offense before, much less an entire team. This also gave a lot more personnel control to Vinny Cerrato and both drafts in this era were near disasters for the Redskins. Only 7 out of 16 players drafted in 2008 and 2009 are still with the team, and only one (Orakpo) has made any real impact. This period was a disaster for the Skins.

Which all brings us to Mike Shanahan. The Redskins were a bloody mess when he got here. He has traded too many picks IMO and made the team older, but Rome wasn't built in a day. He may be the one who's capable of building this team along with Allen. When Shanahan went to Denver in 1995 the team was not great. They had John Elway, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman on offense. Shanny drafted Terrell Davis, promoted Tom Nalen, signed Mark Schlereth, Ed McCaffrey and others. He even signed star wideout Rod Smith as an undrafted free agent.

By 1996 the Broncos had gone 13-3. They won the Super Bowl in '97 and '98. This guy knows teambuilding. I can't say we're going to have a turnaround that's this fast... but it appears we're on the right path.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where do we go from here?

At one point this season it seemed like the Redskins were heading in the right direction. They might finish 8-8 but at least it'd be a solid core to build on... now it seems much more bleak. McNabb is showing his age (of course, his poor supporting cast only makes things worse), Shanahan seemingly has a Napoleon complex and almost every facet of the team (RB, WR, OL, DL, LB, CB and S's) all look like they are 2-3 drafts away. Basically, we got fooled again.

You don't see a lot of teams in today's NFL flat out re-build, but it's something you need to do in order to win in sports. Endure a couple losing seasons while you get the right players in the mix. The Redskins lengthened the process by committing to a 3-4 defense which has been an abject failure to this point.

How you feel about the Redskins all boils down to how you still feel about the leadership of Allen and Shanahan. Are they the guys to get the job done? I was upset when Shanahan dumped Devin Thomas (though I felt better when I read Thomas' idiotic comments after the trade) and I was upset about his treatment of the Albert Haynesworth situation... but the more I think about it, the more I am reminded that the first thing that needed to change was the culture in Washington. The culture that guys who came here were mercenaries looking for a big paycheck, that this franchise is far removed from it's glory days.

Well, by staying the course, they may be back again. We shot ourselves in the foot by trading multiple draft picks away, but next offseason will be interesting to say the least. If you look at the core players that will be coming back, you see guys like Santana Moss, Anthony Armstrong, Trent Williams, Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry. There's definitely some players we can build around here.

Expect Snyder to show some rare patience and let Shanahan and Allen build this team. We're going to be happy with the results. (Eventually.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1998: What If?

I might dwell in the past too much, but after a loss like Monday night's 59-28 drubbing I think it's fun to wonder how things might have been different if the Cooke family had retained control of the Redskins in 1998 and Daniel Snyder stayed far, far away.

It's well documented that Jack Kent Cooke allowed the Redskins to be auctioned off so he could free up money for the Jack Kent Cooke foundation. His son, John Kent Cooke's big of approximately $750 million just wasn't enough to edge out Snyder who bested him by $50 million dollars. We can't be sure of how John would have run the team, but we can be confident in a couple things:

1.) The Redskins would not have fired Norv Turner when they did.

Last year, John Kent Cooke said: "We were rebuilding the club with Norv Turner. You talk about continuity, but it's not just continuity, it's patience. You got to give a guy a chance. And the mistake that Snyder made is that he got rid of Norv too soon."

Now, Norv Turner isn't great, he's bounced around the league quite a bit, but he's a respected football man who's been head coach of three different teams. In addition, he's the last coach of the Redskins to last more than 4 seasons. He would have given us continuity and been a decent choice to manage a rebuilding project.

2.) Charlie Casserly would have remained General Manager.

Casserly was replaced by some unholy combination of Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder himself. After his dismissal, Charlie Casserly was selected to run the expansion Houston Texans. The man had made some mistakes with high draft picks, but Casserly was a veteran personnel man who was helping to rebuild the Redskins. He had gotten Trent Green as a backup, drafted Stephen Davis, signed Terry Allen, signed Ken Harvey, etc.

He was a real general manager who would have been working with a patient new owner managing a rebuilding project. The next year he would work the draft masterfully getting Champ Bailey and Jon Jansen with his first two picks. He may or may not have still drafted Chris Samuels in 2000 although it's likely because Samuels was the consensus pick for top offensive tackle, which we badly needed. It's quite possible we would have had Casserly working with this excellent young base of talent instead of Snyder and Cerrato who obviously had no idea how to build a successful franchise.

3.) Trent Green would have stayed in Washington.

In 1998, the Redskins went 6-10 but there was some cause for optimism. Quarterback Trent Green had worked his way up the depth chart and assumed the starting job. He threw for 3,441 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. At 28, he was still young, and had three year's experience in Turner's system.  It seemed we had a possible franchise quarterback on our hands.

After the 1998 season the Redskins were undergoing an upheaval and possible ownership change. They offered Trent Green a 4 year 12 million dollar contract. Green signed with St. Louis for just 4.5 million more. If the Redskins had remained under control of the Cooke family, it's likely they would have been able to match that offer. It didn't work out well for the Rams but Green blossomed into an elite quarterback, and two time pro bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs.


The Redskins would likely have opened 1999 with Green at quarterback surrounded by players like Brian Mitchell, Stephen Davis, Larry Centers, Steven Alexander, Albert Connel, Michael Westbrook, Brad Badger, Tre' Johnson, Andy Heck, Keith Simms, Cory Raymer, Kenard Lang, Dan Wilkinson, Dana Stubblefield, Derek Smith, Marvcus Patton, Darrell Green, Chris Dishman, Champ Bailey... we even had a pro-bowl punter and a future all pro kicker on the roster. That was a good combination of youth and experience and a fine foundation to build on.

We don't know how much better John Kent Cooke, Charlie Casserly, Norv Turner, and Trent Green could have made this franchise, but I don't think there's much doubt it would have been in better hands.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shanahan the personnel man

I am sick of hearing about the McNabb situation, and I am hoping the team moves past it with a winning record in the second half, so I want to try to stay positive and talk about something else. Enjoy.

The knock on Mike Shanahan was that in Denver, he wasn't able to successfully juggle coaching and personnel duties. Looking back on his track record in Denver, I am not entirely sure that's fair. Now, in Washington he has a real General Manager in Bruce Allen who's strong suit appears to be contract negotiation (and lately, public relations) it's safe to say that Coach Shanahan still has a big say in acquiring players, and I don't see a problem with that. In his last 5 years as the head football guy in Denver they went 47-33 with two trips to the playoffs (including the AFC Championship game in '05). They were a very competitive team, let's look at his drafts from that time period (2004-2008)


Linebacker D.J. Williams was their first pick at 17th overall. He never made the pro-bowl but he was an excellent player in Denver. DE Will Smith, was selected right after him, RB Steven Jackson was picked a few spots later down but it's hard to argue with Williams there.

Tatum Bell was picked in the second round and had a couple really good seasons in Denver including one for over 1,000 yards.

Not a lot else there for Denver, but it was a weak draft overall once you got out of the first round and going down pick by pick it's hard to see one where they really missed on a guy who could help them.


CB Darrent Williams was their top pick here, and he was senselessly murdered on New Year's day in 2007. He was on his way to becoming a solid NFL corner though. After that Shanahan selected two more defensive backs trying to rebuild a depleted secondary. Both his selections, Karl Paymah and Domonique Foxworth are decent players who are still in the league and have over 70 games a piece since being drafted.

He gambled on Maurice Clarett in the third round of this draft. Many consider it to be a major reach based on Clarett being out of football for a year and his lack of maturity, and perhaps it was, but Clarett had shown tons of promise at Ohio State. With three third round picks, and no selections until the 6th round Shanahan went for it and took a guy he felt he could mold into a star. Unfortunately the experiment failed terribly and Clarett lacked the maturity, discipline and common sense to make it in the NFL.

Finally, though is didn't stay in Denver long, Shanny drafted Center Chris Myers in the 6th round who went on to be an everyday starter for Denver and later the Texans.


Jay Cutler was the first pick for Denver. The Shanahan-Cutler marriage was broken up after only 3 seasons once Shanahan was fired in Denver but Cutler was a Pro-Bowl player during that time with two outstanding seasons as a starter. It was an excellent pick, and under Shanahan's guidance it's likely Cutler's career would have progressed much differently.

In the second round he drafted TE Tony Scheffler who was a standout player for years in Denver before signing with Detroit and landing a big extension.

Brandon Marshall was selected in the 4th round and soon became one of the NFL's elite young wideouts.

Also in the 4th round was DE/LB Elvis Dumerville who developed into an elite pass rusher.

Last but not least, G Chris Kuper was drafted in the 5th round. He's been a standout player on Denver's offensive line ever since.


The Broncos were severely limited in picks for the 2007 draft which was mostly weak anyway. DE Jarvis Moss was a bust, but they also got DE Tim Crowder who developed into a starter for Denver and later the Buccaneers. Ryan Harris was selected in the 3rd round and despite struggling through injuries is a fine RT. Lastly, Marcus Thomas was selected in the 4th round, and while not a regular starter, he has appeared in every game since he was drafted.


2006 was an excellent draft for Denver, but 2008 might rival it. They selected an elite LT in Ryan Clady with their first pick. In the second they got WR Eddie Royal who has been a star for the Broncos. C/G Kory Lichtensteiger was picked in the 4th round and we all know he went on to start for the Redskins. Ryan Torain was picked in the 6th round and has shown a lot of promise. FB Spencer Larsen was picked in the 6th round and still starts for the Broncos but perhaps the best of all was 7th rounder RB Peyton Hillis. Shanahan's predecessor foolishly dumped Hillis to Cleveland last season but Hillis has been a star for the Browns with several 100 yard games as well as being a huge weapon in the passing game.


It's a very solid draft history his last 5 years in Denver, and that's only part of it. He was also the guy who traded Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey and a second round pick (a veritable steal!). He also burned the Redskins again on the Ashley Lelie and Jason Campbell trades. He traded WR Javon Walker for a second round pick, signed K Matt Prater, signed S John Lynch signed WR Rod Smith as an undrafted free agent... etc. etc. the list goes on. I'd say Shanahan's record as GM is pretty good. (Especially when compared to the Redskins!) With a real GM to make the personnel moves based on Shanny's input, he ought to be able to focus on what he does best: coaching! It seems to me that's good news for Skins fans!